Every six months, before Rosh Hashana and Passover, workers collect thousands of handwritten notes from the crevices of the Western Wall (Kotel) in Jerusalem’s Old City. Then they bury the notes along with other sacred papers on the Mount of Olives.

On March 31, this familiar routine was carried out a bit differently because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Western Wall Heritage Foundation reports that the workers used gloves and disposable wooden tools to protect them from infection as they pried some 18,000 prayer notes from the wall.

And because visitors from across the world kiss and stroke the stones of this ancient retaining wall from the Second Temple compound, the workers also gave it a thorough sanitizing.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, oversaw the note removal and prayed for the recovery of people ill with COVID-19.

“During these difficult days in which the plague is spreading around the world and threatening our lives, we collect prayers from around the world at the remnant of our destroyed Temple, prayers to the Creator of the Universe that He should send us a complete healing and good health and redeem us from this difficult virus that has attacked the world,” said Rabinowitz.

The custom of putting personal prayers between the stones of the Western Wall can be done in person or through the Western Wall website, which continues to take requests during the coronavirus pandemic.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz, rabbi of the Western Wall and holy sites, overseeing the note removal and disinfection of the Kotel. Photo courtesy of The Western Wall Heritage Foundation